Tuesday, June 03, 2008

2008 WSOP Day 4: Vultures and the First Mistake

By Pauly
Las Vegas, NV

As one industry insider said to me, "You can't play down from 4,000 to a final table of nine in three days."

Harrah's experienced their first mistake of the WSOP. They really wanted to break a record early on in the 2008 WSOP in an attempt to create the illusion that poker is on the rise and not plateaued or on the decline like many of us think (such as myself, Flipchip, and the Poker Shrink).

In an attempt to break records, Harrah's exposed their underestimation of the power of the donkaments. On Day 4, they had to get Event #2 from 448 to nine. Of course, by Midnight I set the line at 7:30am and I would have taken an over bets. At 2am, with about 70 players to go, Perry Friedman figured out that the final table would be set sometime around 8 or 9am.

I left the Rio and went home to sleep around 2am. When I woke up, I was surprised to discover that 18 players remained. Just before 6am, players voted on whether to keep play or suspend play. When it got down to 18, they decided to suspend play and return to play on Tuesday. Jesus and Perry are among the final 18.

I thought that I could be a tough guy and stay up until the final table was set. Around 2am I had a revelation... what's the point? I actually get better work done in the privacy of my little office in Scheckytown. I like the press box, but there are times when it's impossible to get work done. Perhaps next year, Harrah's will create a separate media room that's more like a library with a no-talking rule and cubicles for privacy which is reserved for media reps who need to hunker down for a deadline.

Until that happens, I have to suck it up... or simply leave to go back to the house and write. Shit, I'm writing this by the pool with the only distracting sound is the min-waterfall, unlike the Rio, where it's constant bombardment of announcements on the PA and the deafening sounds of riffling chips, and other background noise.

Oh yeah, the final 18 come back on Day 5 and will play down to a winner.

* * * * *

There's been a lot of false rumors that Kathy Liebert signed a deal to become a member of Team PokerStars. That's not true. There might be some sort of confusion over her final table sponsorship with PokerStars. Liebert inked a one-time deal with Stars where she would wear a hat and logo for her final table appearance in Event #1 which was taped by ESPN and will be aired sometime this summer.

Liebert agreed to a one-time deal and not full time sponsorship.

It's not uncommon for players to ink a one-time deal with an online poker site. If you don't know, when there's a televised poker tournament, various poker agents and reps from online sights circle the final two tables like vultures. They're looking for big stacks or named players (without affiliation) that advance to the final table. Some of the sites will talk to the players directly and offer them cash to wear gear. Sometimes third-party people such as players, family members, or agents will ink the deals for you in return for a small fee.

Several years ago, I knew one gal who worked marketing for Absolute Poker. Her sole job was to buy off final table players at the WSOP. She had two bags. One had stacks of cash. The other had Absolute Poker gear.

Sometimes these negotiations get rough as online sites compete for players. All of this goes on behind the scenes during the hours leading up to the final table. That side of the business is cut throat, nasty, and is just pure anarchy. That's part of the reason why I have a bad feeling about the Final Table Delay. I know the ugliness that goes down the night before the final table. You can imagine all the shenanigans that will present itself during the months leading up to Main Event final table in November.

The TV deals that players used to get were tremendous and would make your head spin. $30,000 to wear a hat in 2006? Yep. These days, the deals are not as lucrative which makes the competition even more fierce. I heard that some unaffiliated players got as little as $3,000 to wear online poker gear during the NBC Heads Up Championship. Of course that money was transferred to the player's online poker site... which he admitted to already donking it all off.

At the 2007 WSOP, Dario Minieri was caught up in the struggle between two online giants, Poker Stars and Full Tilt. You know Dario, the small Italian kid with the scarf. Well he amassed a monster stack during the main event. He had been primarily a PokerStars player, achieved SuperNova status and cashed in his FPP points to buy a Porsche. Dario had been wearing PokerStars gear for most of the WSOP until he came back from one break with a Full Tilt patch.

Obviously, the Stars crew were wicked pissed. They got ambushed by guerrilla marketing techniques. Full Tilt got to Dario's posse and tried to get them to woo Dario over to Full Tilt. Max Pescatori and Marco Traniello were Italian pros who both had sponsorship from Full Tilt. Since Dario's English wasn't top notch, they both stepped in and tried to convince Dario to wear FT gear. When Dario returned, he had a FT patch but he also looked sick to his stomach. It was obvious that he wasn't comfortable fucking over Stars, a site where he won his Porsche. The FT patch lasted a couple of hours. By the next break, it was removed and he remained neutral the rest of the day. (Editor's Note: Several months later, Dario Minieri would become a sponsored player by Poker Stars.)

That scenario happens frequently, and I'm not just using the WSOP, FT, and Stars as an example. It happens with at tournaments all over the world with other online poker sites and other poker-related business like that All In Energy drink. I thought it was awesome that Phil Laak went logo-less at the final table in Event #1. All he wore was a plain yellow post-it note. No logos. Now, if Post-it paid Laak to do that, then wow he's a truly a fuckin' genius.

TV exposure is big business, that's why sponsored pros (like Full Tilt red players or Team Poker Stars players) have incentive clauses in their contract that they will receive a cash bonus if they make it to a TV final table and especially if they win an event.

So if TV poker is on the verge of mass extinction in America, what happens to all those lucrative sponsorships?

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at www.taopoker.com. All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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